FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

November 26, 2013 3:31 PM

From PC World: The Federal Bureau of Investigation should make public a legal opinion it used to justify a past telephone records surveillance program because other agencies may still be relying on the document for surveillance justifications, the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued in court Tuesday.

EFF lawyer Mark Rumold asked a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the FBI to disclose a 2010 legal opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, telling the judges that the OLC report amounts to final policy that agencies are required to disclose under open-records law. The EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the OLC opinion in February 2011 and later filed a lawsuit after the DOJ rejected its request.

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November 15, 2013 12:59 PM

From Huffington Post: The FBI is going long to keep its secret files on animal rights activists a secret: It is fighting public records requests about why it keeps denying public records requests.

It's a deeply meta strategy that's also like the set-up for an Abbott and Costello routine -- but to Ryan Shapiro, the MIT doctoral candidate profiled in Mother Jones on Wednesday as "the punk rocker who can liberate your FBI file," it's nothing new.

For years, Shapiro and the agency have engaged in a tug-of-war over how many records the FBI will release to enable his academic research on the history of the animal rights movement. Since 2010, Shapiro has barraged the agency with records requests. He says he now has roughly 600 records requests open and is fighting for the release of 350,000 pages of files -- which likely makes him the agency's most prolific requester (or tormentor).

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October 24, 2013 2:41 PM

From In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation revised its operational guidelines known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. Under the new marching orders, the document allowed agents to engage in limited racial and ethnic profiling when assessing criminal and terroristic threats.

The new guidelines, though, put the American Civil Liberties Union on alert. The group feared the revised guidelines would encourage FBI agents to unlawfully racially profile people, and so it ultimately launched a series of coordinated Freedom of Information Act requests aimed at gathering FBI records on its use of ethnic and racial data.

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October 24, 2013 2:34 PM

From Al Jazeera America: While much has been made of the government's current penchant for secrecy, few have noticed that this atmosphere now shrouds government history as well.

Working on a biography of a noted Washington journalist, I placed a routine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2011 for her FBI file. The timing of my application seemed propitious. Two years earlier, President Barack Obama had signed an executive order to speed declassification of materials and had issued an encouraging FOIA memorandum.

Visit Al Jazeera America for more.



October 10, 2013 3:29 PM

From RT: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has turned over new documents detailing how the FBI collects cell phone location information about criminal suspects, but most of the secretive program will remain under wraps for now.

The latest trove of documents was published this week by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a DC-based public interest research group that specializes in issues involving surveillance and security.

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September 23, 2013 3:22 PM

From The Joplin Globe: JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Globe filed an open records request more than a year ago to try to determine whether a Joplin City Council member or any other public officials were involved in a five-year gambling and public corruption probe conducted by the FBI.

The Globe also sought the FBI documents under the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether the probe shed any light on the disappearance of $63,000 from the Jasper County Drug Task Force and files missing from the Joplin Police Department regarding that case.

Visit The Jopline Globe for more.



September 13, 2013 12:04 PM

From Courthouse News Service: WASHINGTON (CN) - A death row lawyer who says police got the wrong guy cannot access law enforcement records on the supposed true culprit, a federal judge ruled.

Blythe Taplin, a lawyer with the nonprofit Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans, had asked the FBI on behalf of her client Rogers Lacaze to release such documents.

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April 4, 2013 3:23 PM

From Courthouse News:

The FBI can't delay releasing information on its controversial cellphone-tracking technology, a federal judge ruled, nixing concerns over the size and sensitivity of the request.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, claims that federal agents have been using StingRay technology to locate, interfere with and intercept communications through cellphones and other wireless technology since at least 1995.

February 8, 2013 7:32 AM

From Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — A Tennessee newspaper and the federal government said they have agreed in principle to settle the paper’s lawsuit seeking documents about civil rights-era photographer Ernest Withers’ work as an informant for the FBI.

In a court filing late Wednesday night, The Commercial Appeal of Memphis and the FBI said they were in the process of finalizing and executing a settlement agreement. To allow time to do so, they asked the court to suspend deadlines in the case until March 8. No details of the settlement were included in the filing.


In 2010, The Commercial Appeal’s publisher, Memphis Publishing Co., and one of its reporters, Marc Perrusquia, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI. Last year, under a court order, the FBI released 348 pages that were heavily redacted in places. In a court filing, the paper called the release insufficient.


January 18, 2013 11:34 AM

From Yahoo! News:

The FBI and the American Civil Liberties Union seem to have very different interpretations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

As surfaced by the website Arstechnica, the FBI recently complied with a request from the civil rights organization—sort of.

The ACLU had filed the FOIA request back in July. (It had first heard of the memos when they were mentioned publicly by an FBI official during a panel discussion at the University of San Francisco earlier in the year.) The request asked for two memos that outline how the FBI interprets the Supreme Court decision blocking law enforcement from using GPS to track a suspect’s car without a warrant.

As the ACLU reported, the organization has just received a response—almost all of it blacked out.

From the ACLU, see Justice Department refuses to release GPS tracking memos.


December 14, 2012 12:35 PM

From American Journalism Review:

In the Sixties, an era defined by the counterculture and social revolution, the University of California, Berkeley became a center of student activism. It was home to the Free Speech Movement, one of the era's most influential student protests, and a wealth of civil rights and antiwar demonstrations. It was when Ronald Reagan, in his first public office as the state's governor, campaigned to clean up the "mess" at Berkeley.

In 1981, Seth Rosenfeld, a young journalist at UC Berkeley's campus newspaper, the Daily Californian, received a call from his editor that would immerse him in this history and come to define the next three decades of his career. The newspaper had obtained about 10,000 pages of documents on protests at the university through a Freedom of Information Act request it filed in 1977--and the editor was giving Rosenfeld first crack at them.

The request had been submitted in the wake of the Watergate scandal and Church Committee Hearings in the mid-1970s, the groundbreaking congressional hearings led by Sen. Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat, on domestic surveillance by the FBI, CIA and military agencies.

November 26, 2012 2:52 PM


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the FBI's decision to redact information from records sought under the Freedom of Information Act by a Tennessee death row inmate.

Inmate Michael Dale Rimmer sued the agency over records relating to an investigation they conducted into the death of a Memphis motel clerk in 1997. Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the clerk, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, in 1998.

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